I remember whilst studying for my A Levels one particular day when I was on my way back from a dinner break heading to lectures. As I was walking up the street I saw a street pastor preaching and giving out tracts. Then he turned around and written on his coat was “Jesus Saves” in big striking colourful letters. However, what was written on his back and what he was actually saying was miles apart in comparison.
I neared to where he was standing and his beady eye caught me. I knew I was going to be asked to take a leaflet and probably be told a Gospel message. Then I got confronted with something which looks like the picture to the right. As a leaflet was shoved in my face I asked a question.
“What is the chief end of man?”
I received a blank expression; I could tell he had never heard of the Westminster Shorter Catechism. I told him that it was “To glorify God and enjoy him forever” to which he replied,
“And what about those who don’t glorify God? We tell them that they are condemned to hell and will receive eternal judgement.”
At that point I froze. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. The man who had the “Jesus saves” coat on was preaching to people who have never heard the Gospel that they are going to a place of eternal punishment and suffering. There was NOTHING of life included in his message. I thought Gospel meant “good news” ?
I challenged him, and he got angry, started foaming at the mouth, and shouting all down the street, which I found quite humiliating to say the least. He justified himself by saying he was “rebuking a brother who is at fault”. I just didn’t agree with him. He told me that I should tell everyone that they were dirty rotten sinners, and that I was to damn them to hell until they turned their life around. I don’t recall anywhere in the Bible where Jesus spoke so negatively to people. He ate with sinners, drunks and tax collectors, telling them to “repent and believe” and to “receive the good news” and to “receive everlasting life” and to “come with him to paradise”. I don’t think Jesus ever told anyone to “Go to hell”, did he?
Now- I am not saying that hell shouldn’t be talked about or that people shouldn’t know about the consequences of their sin that hasn’t been dealt with. What I am saying though is that there is a difference between preaching to people about hell, and preaching people to hell. The thing is, Jesus died that people may receive eternal life, not eternal damnation…
Jesus dealt with that side of things through his finished work on the cross! The bible does tell believers to warn unbelievers about hell and the consequences of their sin. But that is just one side of the story. What about that everlasting joy a person has when they come to know Christ? What about the everlasting life talked about in John 3:16 ? Shouldn’t the emphasis be the Good News? Sin isn’t good news, and neither is hell- the Good news is that there is a remedy for someone to be free from sin and hell!
I think a happy medium should be preached. Hell should be mentioned, yet we know that Christ is bigger and better than hell, so surely it is him who should take center stage when we present the Gospel to others!
In 2 Timothy, it says,
8Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel, 9 for which I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal. But the word of God is not bound!10Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. 11The saying is trustworthy, for: If we have died with him, we will also live with him; 12 if we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us; 13 if we are faithless, he remains faithful—
14Remind them of these things, and charge them before God not to quarrel about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers.15Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.16 But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness, 17and their talk will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, 18who have swerved from the truth, saying that the resurrection has already happened. They are upsetting the faith of some. 19But God’s firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity.”
20Now in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver but also of wood and clay, some for honorable use, some for dishonorable. 21Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work.
22So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. 23Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. 24And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, 25correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, 26and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.
Look at verse 14. To quarrel and anger people is only RUINING the hearers who are listening to the Gospel. Not only this, but verse 22 shows we should teach with gentleness.
I don’t believe in compromising the Bible. The gospel wouldn’t be a full one without the mention of hell and punishment for those who don’t repent. However, the extreme damnation I heard that vivid day just enlightened me as to why everyone in the college that I went to described him as the “Wacky-preacher-man-who-gives-me-no-desire-to-believe-and-no-hope-in-my-life”.
In conclusion, the only outcome I can see coming from this man’s work is verse 17 flourishing, and verse 24 being neglected.
Dean is a Minister in the Anglican Church. Currently he is Curate in the parishes of Bedwas, Machen, Michaelston-y-Fedw and Rudry in South Wales. He was born and bred in Wales, is married to Megan, and has two dogs called Taliesin and Melyn, and two cats named Sinsir and Hâf. He graduated from Cardiff University with a BA Hons. in Theology & Religious Studies, and has studied for an MA in Theology, Ministry & Mission at Trinity College Bristol. He also holds a Cert.RSCM from the Royal School of Church Music. He loves playing music, walking, reading, blogging and horse riding as well as going to the cinema and theatre.
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